Network Zero Client Stations

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Copyright © 2015 Userful Corporation. All rights reserved.
(Updated 2015.09.28)


Introduction

Thank you for choosing Userful Desktop for your managed and locked-down desktops. Userful Desktop 8.0 enables you to turn one PC into Ten and to manage your fleet of desktop computers from your web-browser.

This document provides guidelines and instructions for configuring a multiseat computer system with network zero client stations.

How Many Users/Stations Can Be Supported with Network Zero Client Devices??

Even with single-user computer systems (i.e./ a stand-alone desktop computer or personal laptop), user experience depends on several factors:

  1. The speed and power of the CPU
  2. The available system memory (RAM)
  3. The demands made upon the system by the operating system and applications
  4. The speed and capacity of network connections and hardware

With multi-station computing, these factors influence the maximum user capacity of a given system configuration.

Limitation imposed by the hardware used to multiply the system:

  • With network zero client devices, the system capacity is highly dependent on both usage scenarios and system configuration (including network configuration). Refer to the table below for system capacity guidelines , based upon the minimum PC specifications for 15 stations.

Recommended PC Specifications

The following are the recommended system requirements that can be expected to give a satisfactory user experience under most normal use cases, with Userful Desktop and network zero client devices.


For network zero client stations, PCs must have a non-wireless network card.

Please Note: PCI-E (PCI Express) USB expansion cards are not supported with Userful.


Compatible Network Zero Client Devices

With the release of Userful Desktop 8.2, Userful has added support for network zero client devices (using the Elite Silicon® (EST) USB to LAN chipset) with one of the following USB graphics chipsets: DisplayLink®, SMSC®chipsets.

Userful has tested and confirmed that the following devices are supported for use with Userful Desktop.

USB-over-LAN Devices Recommended Device Firmware First Supported in (Userful MultiSeat Version) Graphics Chipset External Power Supply Required Important Additional Information
Acer E400 039.100 v5.0.1 SMSC UFX-6000 Yes
Atrust m220 050.103 v5.0 DisplayLink Yes
Atrust m320 039.100 v5.0 SMSC UFX-6000 Yes
Centerm C75 039.100 v6.0.1 SMSC UFX-6000 Yes
HP T200 Thin Client 035.226 v5.0 SMSC UFX-6000 Yes
ViewSonic VMA-20 055.103 v5.0 DisplayLink Yes
ViewSonic VMA-25 039.100 v5.0.1 SMSC UFX-6000 Yes
ThiNetworks MiniPoint Ethernet 039.100 v7.0 SMSC UFX-6000 Yes
ViewSonic SC-U25 039.100 v7.0 SMSC UFX-6000 YES

Getting Started

Station setup should be done after installation of Userful Desktop is complete.

Some things to remember:

  • Even when using network zero client stations, it is important to keep one station connected to the onboard video card in order to see startup messages.
  • We recommend the use of homogeneous (all one type and model) network zero client devices with Userful Desktop.
  • Network zero client devices MUST be on the same subnet as the host PC to function.
  • If there is more than one host PC on a subnet, they must have unique hostnames. This is because network zero client devices are locked to PCs based on the system name (or "hostname"). Having duplicate host names on one subnet cause erratic behaviour of the network devices.
  • Userful recommends deploying no more than 15 stations on a given subnet.

Setting Up Stations

An example of a network station configuration.
  1. Position one monitor to be plugged into the system tower; this is the onboard station. Input devices (keyboard and mouse) can be plugged directly into the system tower as well (for either PS/2 or USB connections); however Userful recommends using a simple USB hub with audio input/output for connection of the onboard station input devices.
  2. Position one monitor and one network zero client device for each station required and group each with a keyboard and mouse.
  3. Connect one monitor, one mouse and one keyboard to each device.
  4. Using Cat-5e network cable, connect each device to a gigabit-capable switch (or router, depending on network setup). See example to the right.
  5. Connect the host PC to the switch (or router) using Cat-5e network cable.
  6. Ensure all devices, hubs and monitors are connected to a UPS or surge protected outlets, if necessary.
  7. Turn on the system when ready.


Adding or Removing Network Zero Client Stations

To add a station (assuming your license supports that number of stations), simply connect another device and use the Userful Control Center to attach the device to the server. Please note: it may take up to 60 seconds for the newly added station to be recognized by the system. No reboot is necessary.

Stations can be removed simply by unplugging the device (even from a running system).

Firmware Updates for Network Zero Client Devices

Network Station Firmware.png

Occasionally new firmware updates are released to improve the performance of network zero client stations. Having the correct firmware version is essential to proper functioning of your network stations.

If any network zero client devices have firmware that is not up to date, a warning message (see image at right) appears to notify administrators.

Firmware updates can be applied both to unassigned or assigned stations; please note that the firmware update process restarts the device and will automatically close any active user session.

To update firmware for all devices (recommended), click on the "Update All Firmware" radio button below the station list, then click apply. To update firmware for individual devices, click in the "Update Firmware" checkbox for each station that should have firmware updates applied, then click "Apply" to confirm the action.

Input Device Assignment

Each station in a multiseat configuration must have dedicated input devices (keyboard and mouse, or equivalent).

Automatic Device Assignment

Input devices are assigned automatically with Userful Desktop when using:

  • USB zero client devices or
  • USB-over-LAN zero client devices

Any device plugged into the same USB zero client device as a given display will automatically be assigned to the display's station.

Station Reset

Occasionally, it may be necessary to restart or reset an individual network zero client station. The method used depends on the reason a reset is needed as well as the desired result.

NOTE: Resetting or restarting a station will log out the user.

  • If the display on an individual station is corrupted or frozen, you can reset the X window manager by hitting "CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE".
  • If resetting the X window manager does not fix the issue, network zero clients can be reset by powering off the device, waiting for 30 seconds, powering on the device.
  • If the power cycle does not resolve the issue, OR if several stations are frozen or otherwise require a reset, a system reboot is necessary.

Troubleshooting

If any problems with network zero client devices arise, check the following:

  1. Ensure that each device is using the correct firmware and update if necessary.
  2. Make sure that all network devices (the NIC in the host PC, any switches or routers used) are working at the necessary capacity. Networks running at less than optimal capacity can result in intermittent dropping of USB-over-LAN stations and/or performance issues.
    • See the Network Station Guidelines for network speed/capacity considerations.
  3. Network zero client devices must be within 1 millisecond of the host PC. You can ping the network device from the host PC to find out what the delay is. Please note that routers can introduce significant (greater than 0.5 ms) delays and should NOT be positioned in the network between the host PC and any network device.
  4. Network devices are sensitive to packet loss. Ping a network device from the host PC for 60 seconds to determine the percentage of packets lost. If packets are being lost, it can cause network zero client instability.
  5. If an individual station is not operating properly (station not starting, or station won't assign to host), and there is no problem with firmware or network infrastructure, try the following, in order, to rectify the issue:
    • Open Control Center > Help and Support > System Diagnostics tool .
    • Check the Network Latency option. If network stations are non-functional or there is a problem with network infrastructure, this would display an error.

    One of the steps mentioned below may solve network problem:

    • Reset/reboot the device through the Control Center or by issuing this command in the terminal (device must be unassigned first): userful device reset <MAC.address>.
    • Power off/power on the device.
    • Physically reset the device,
    • For HP T200, a physical reset button is there.
    • To reset Atrust m320 and ViewSonic SC-U25:
    1. Power-off device and disconnect any LAN cable.
    2. Install 4 pcs of USB keys into all 4 USB ports of the device.
    3. Power-on the device and within 10 seconds, the power-led of the device starts flashing.
    4. Un-plug all 4 pcs of USB keys from USB ports in 10 seconds.
    5. The Power-led would become solid blue indicating "reset" state on.
    6. Power off/on the device again; this would reset the device to factory default.
  6. Reboot the host PC.
  7. Reset configuration (through the Control Center, Help and Support > Troubleshoot > Reset Userful Desktop).